Demand Safe Cambridge Campaign

Demand Safe Cambridge text with Cambridge SU logo

Today Cambridge SU is launching our #DemandSafeCambridge campaign. This campaign has grown out of extensive consultations with student representatives, societies, campaigns and academic/non-academic staff on how they envision the University to look over the coming year. We believe that the University is currently not doing enough to provide for the essential safety and wellbeing needs of students, staff and the wider Cambridge community, in spite of its capacity to do so. 

In particular, we are seriously concerned by the lack of clear and consistent communication from the Colleges to their students and staff. While we are aware that the University has no direct control over the decisions of 31 colleges, we believe the University has shown an unwillingness to make demands on them at a time where consistency and unity is of utmost importance. As a result, students and staff are expected to return to a Collegiate University where the safety regulations, procedures and risk management are inconsistent and confusing. The inability to forge consensus despite the common threats posed by a global pandemic reflects failure of the Collegiate University to prioritise the safety and welfare of its students and staff.

Everyone is a member of the University community, whether student, academic, administrator or support/facilities staff. Consistent support must be put in place to keep all members safe. This means putting students and staff at the heart of ongoing planning for the re-opening of the University, with assurances that our voices will be listened to within all decision-making processes. While a huge amount of students and staff are excited and looking forward to returning to Cambridge, planning must also include alternatives for those who do not wish to, or cannot return. We believe that these are the basic responsibilities of a University which truly puts care and compassion at the forefront of all of its actions.

The launch of the #DemandSafeCambridge campaign is a whole community response to these gaps in the University’s current approach to COVID-19 safety. We have put forward a list of essential guarantees addressed to the Collegiate University and present these demands in three sections: Living, Studying, Working. Within these sections we cover areas of concern such as provision in the event of a future lockdown, sufficient testing, student discipline, and increased financial support for all students and staff. These demands reflect a collective desire for students and staff to return to a COVID-19 safe campus. We believe that this will only be possible with a clear and consistent approach from the entire Collegiate University which goes above and beyond current Public Health England guidelines, prioritises student-staff wellbeing, and recognises the need for transparent decision-making and student-staff engagement.

We urge the colleges to seriously consider our demands and collaborate on a consistent approach during this difficult time. This will not only ease the burden on student and staff representatives, but allow the university to operate in a cohesive manner that puts the welfare and safety of our community first. We additionally hope the University will offer an open meeting with the Vice Chancellor and key University and College decision makers for the beginning of term where staff, students and the wider community can raise concerns and questions in regard to University life over the coming year. 

If you’re a student or staff member, we encourage you to sign our Open Letter to voice your support for the #DemandSafeCambridge campaign, and get in touch with your J/MCR and any societies or clubs you are affiliated with to urge them to do so as well. And, more importantly, get organised and keep an eye out for updates from the SU - building and mobilising student-staff support will be essential in pressuring University-wide and College-level decision-makers to commit to COVID-19 safety.

The Demands:

Living

  1. Fair rent: no costs passed on to students for changes out of their control, such as rent due during mandatory quarantine, higher rent after being moved to a different room than balloted for, or needing a more expensive room due to disability, shielding or self-isolating

  2. Guaranteed accommodation for students who choose to remain outside of term time and in the event of a future lockdown, with a transparent appeals process for those who are asked to leave accommodation

  3. Guaranteed provision of accessible, regularly usable communal space for safe socialising 

  4. Adopt a compassionate approach to student discipline which is not disproportionately punitive in relation to college COVID-19 guidelines

  5. Signposted financial support for any student or staff member in need, with increased budgets for hardship funds embedded in future financial plans

  6. Targeted support for private renters; especially post-graduate students, students with families, and disabled students with accessibility requirements

Ensure that every living space has been risk assessed in accordance with Public Health England guidelines and in consultation with students and staff, with established channels for communication and feedback on health and safety procedures.

Studying

  1. Adopt flexible and transparent policies on deferral, intermission, ‘work away,’ and ‘double time’ (part-time study for health reasons), with lower evidence requirements and continued COVID-19 exemptions

  2. Opt-in system for face-to-face contact hours for students

  3. Expand teaching capacity to reflect increased student numbers

  4. Extend funding for PhD students who are seeking extensions to their research period

  5. Continue the suspension of attendance monitoring measures put in place by the Home Office and offer support to students and staff who are facing hardship in relation to their immigration status

Ensure that every study space has been risk assessed in accordance with Public Health England guidelines and in consultation with students and staff, with established channels for communication and feedback on health and safety procedures.

Working

  1. Ensure that no current academic & non-academic staff working in the Collegiate University loses their job

  2. Reverse hiring and promotions freeze 

  3. Adjust pay for staff to reflect the additional COVID-19 workload which includes but is not limited to cleaning rooms, preparing classes, and providing extra contact hours

  4. Clear and centralised procedure on room availabilities and bookings for teaching across the University and Colleges with clear risk assessments in place

  5. Recognition of trade unions in colleges

  6. Opt-in system for face-to-face contact hours for staff and students who teach, with no penalties for those who choose not to teach in-person

  7. Extend voluntary contributions from the salaries of highest-earning staff 

  8. Freeze rents for local businesses using University- and College-owned properties 

  9. Regular and ongoing COVID-19 testing for all staff, students and the local community, and provision of PPE where necessary

Ensure that every work space has been risk assessed in accordance with Public Health England guidelines and in consultation with students and staff, with established channels for communication and feedback on health and safety procedures, e.g. termly open meetings.